YSN Summer Reads 2019

  • June 26, 2019

Summer is here which means the busyness of the school year is gone. It’s the perfect time to unplug from the real world and curl up with a good book. That’s why The Catholic Register and Youth Speak News have put together a list of faith-based youth titles that we think young book lovers will love.

6 Father Elijah

Father Elijah: An Apocalypse by Michael D. O’Brien. (Ignatius Press, 597 pages, $21.95)

By Declan Riley

In Father Elijah: An Apocalypse, Michael D. O’Brien takes the reader into the dark story of an anti-Christ attempting to take over the world. Through a clear metaphor for the sins and pressures of the 21st century, the concepts and ties to modern society are thought provoking.

Fr. Elijah has been summoned by the pope for a secret mission to infiltrate the organization of the anti-Christ — think the Book of Revelations meets James Bond, meets Sister Act. Full of Scripture references and theology, this book was definitely written with the Catholic community in mind.

The page count might seem intimidating, but I found this book to be a very easy read. It’s recommended for some thought-provoking conversation with your parish book club or just a weekend out at the cabin.

O’Brien has written multiple Catholic fiction novels and is a frequent lecturer on religion and culture. It is clear O’Brien is a great writer with a strong faith. My only question about his work would be how well it is received by the general public.

(Riley, 23, finished his third-year studying journalism at MacEwan University in Edmonton.)


6 Tattoos on the Heart

Tattoos of the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Fr. Gregory Boyle. (Simon and Schuster, 240 pages, $22)

By Nicole Vaz

This book is a memoir about Fr. Greg Boyle and his experiences serving the poor and homeless in Los Angeles, the gang capital of the world. 

Upon returning from Bolivia, Boyle was assigned to lead at the poorest parish in Los Angeles, the Dolores Mission Church. He saw how many lives were getting ruined by gang violence and he took it upon himself to get to know these gang members. He realized very quickly that all these gang members wanted the same thing in life — a job. 

In 1992, Boyle started a non-profit organization called Homeboy Industries, offering gang members help in several areas:  to get tattoos removed, seek higher education and obtain jobs. While this started off as a small operation, it quickly grew and went on to help save the lives of thousands of gang members. 

I was really inspired by Boyle’s selflessness and concern for others. It proves to me the importance of love and compassion when trying to reach the minds and hearts of those in need. Interlocking various stories kept me interested throughout and the bits of humour made it extremely enjoyable to read.

This book is a must-read as it not only teaches us how to spread love but helps us recognize our own shortcomings through the various stories and experiences that Boyle has encountered.

(Vaz, 17, recently graduated from Fr. Michael Goetz Secondary School in Mississauga, Ont. )

7 Vibrant Paradoxes

Vibrant Paradoxes: The Both/And of Catholicism by Bishop Robert Barron. (Word on Fire Catholic Ministries, 272 pages, $24.95)

By Danielle Rivest

The rich theology of the Catholic Church  can sometimes seem confusing and convoluted for the typical person in the pew. 

In Vibrant Paradoxes: The Both/And of Catholicism, Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles tackles some of the most misunderstood paradoxes of the Catholic faith to clarify Church teachings for both Catholics and non-Catholics. He uses five key paradoxes: “Sin and Mercy,” “Reason and Faith,” “Matter and Spirit,” “Freedom and Discipline” and “Suffering and Joy.”

Barron makes even the most confusing theology both accessible and relatable. He even uses current events and celebrities to appeal to the interests of modern readers. 

As a graduate of Catholic Studies, much of the theology and paradoxes explored were familiar to me and his explanations bolstered my own understanding of the faith. The “Sin and Mercy” section especially sparked a great deal of self-reflection. 

However, there were some sections in the book that still fell short. For example, under “Matter and Spirit,” Barron compares transgenderism to Gnosticism. Having studied Gnosticism, I am aware of the negative connotations that are often associated with this ancient faith. If the goal of the book is to explain Catholic theology for both Catholic and non-Catholic readers, then one must be sensitive to how personal topics, such as sexuality and gender, are addressed. 

There also tends to be negative attitude towards science and atheism. I found he consistently uses loaded language around the topics where more neutral language would be more useful to reach out to those who are in the sciences or are atheistic.

Still, Barron’s book offers an excellent way to build bridges to deeper understanding of the complex Catholic faith.

(Rivest, 23, finished her first-year as a teacher candidate at Western University’s Education-Althouse in London, Ont. )

7 Wooing Cadie McCaffrey

Wooing Cadie McCaffery by Bethany Turner. (Revell Books, 352 pages, $14.99)

By Janelle Lafantaisie

At first glance, Wooing Cadie McCaffrey is your standard, run-of-the-mill Nicholas Sparks-type chick flick book, which was a-OK with me!

The story starts with the lovely meet-cute details between Cadie McCaffrey and Will Whitaker. Within the first few pages you’re falling in love with them and their love story. They meet as he starts working for the media company where she’s also working and they quickly become the office relationship everyone loves. 

As we find out more about Will and Cadie’s relationship with each other, we also discover their relationship with God. Both are dedicated and committed to God in their own way. 

Cadie is the daughter of what seems like a mega-church pastor. Her mom is on TV and known across the country for her role with her congregation. But Will turned to his faith in college and sees the toxicity of Cadie’s pressure from her family.

After years of dating, Cadie gets fed up with the fact that Will hasn’t proposed. After a confusing and heartbreaking evening, she and Will call it quits — well, she calls it quits. Will knows and believes in what he has with Cadie and quickly does all he can to woo her back. 

Will his attempts work? Will he be able to prove his love and dedication to the determined and strong Cadie McCaffrey? Grab this book as your go-to beach read this summer to find out!

(Lafantaisie, 24, is owner and photographer for Alice and Flore Photography in Winnipeg, Man.)

6 A Bloody Habit

A Bloody Habit by Eleanor Bourg Nicholson. (Ignatius Press, 435 pages, $18.95)

By Vincent Pham

If you love vampire stories, horror novels and vampire-hunting Dominicans, A Bloody Habit is a novel you should invest in this summer. 

Mysterious, bloody deaths are recurring in the city of London in the in the early 1900s. John Kemp, a lawyer, encounters Fr. Thomas Edmund Gilroy, a Dominican priest who also happens to be a “vampire slayer.” People are being torn apart as if attacked by an animal and both Mr. Kemp and Fr. Thomas go on quest to find the root of the problem. 

Author Eleanor Nicholson does a fine job of giving a Catholic twist to the infamous 1897 novel Dracula by Bram Stoker. Each chapter of A Bloody Habit opens with an excerpt from this novel. Scattered throughout the dialogue, the characters also make frequent references to Dracula

While the first chapter of the novel seems dry, it sets up the plot very well for the reader, giving them the essential “tools” when the events start picking up. 

A Blood Habit is a great read for those who want to read a horror novel from a unique Catholic perspective while maintaining the suspense and thrill — and laughter — you’d expected from a horror novel. 

(Pham, 18, graduated from Chaminade College School in Toronto.)


6 Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene: Insights from Ancient Magdala by Jennifer Ristine. (Magdala Institute, 159 pages, $26.95)

By Gabriela Pariseau

This book makes it clear that Mary Magdalene was no mere Bible story character, but rather a strong, faithful woman of influence whose life was forever changed by an encounter with God. 

Jennifer Ristine provides a short analysis of Mary Magdalene and the world in which she lived. With her easy-to-understand writing style, she synthesizes interpretations of history, archeology, the Gospels, maps, artwork, legends and apocryphal texts in order to piece together a picture of this remarkable woman.

Before reading the book, I wasn’t completely sure who Mary Magdalene was. She is often thought to have been a prostitute or the sinful woman who anointed Jesus with her tears and hair. This book helped me realize that we do not actually know if either of these assumptions are true. 

As one of Jesus’ few disciples who was there for the crucifixion and burial, she had to have been a strong, courageous, faithful woman who loved God with her whole heart. We know Christ drove seven demons out of Mary. She supported Jesus from her own means and followed Him even to the cross. Most importantly, she was the first to witness and proclaim the Resurrection.

The author is able to use what we do know to explain the numerous theories speculating on Mary Magdalene’s life. She does an excellent job pointing out where research is uncertain while indicating where imaginative conclusions support the Scripture passages.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good historical analysis, is curious to know more about Mary Magdalene, and to strong female leaders looking for a model to help them find their place in the Church.

(Pariseau, 21, will enter her fourth-year in Catholic studies at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College in Barry’s Bay, Ont.)


7 Primordium

Primordium by Mario Loomis. (In Vivo Press, 348 pages, $14.95)

By Michael Romen

Seventeen-year-old Noah Bolton spends his time struggling with standardized tests while working for the biotech giant Pridapt Inc., a company with the cure for human suffering. Caught in a field that pushes humanity to its limits, Noah is faced with the cost of “progress.” Where is the ethical line when the cure for suffering is at stake? 

Mario Loomis’ medical sci-fi novel Primordium brings the thrilling subject of bioethics to life through his young protagonist’s moral dilemmas. Primordium is about potential — the individual’s potential to struggle with unfair ethical problems and people’s potential to race over that line for the sake of progress.

Noah excels at his work at Pridapt, navigating through the medical field in spite of his age. His flair for PR has gained him favour with the  top brass of the company, securing him a place after university.   

Noah’s drive to be a part of this world pushes him beyond those secret places in the company. The cure for cancer was only the beginning. Its vaccine is their next great promise as Noah searches for the cost of moving humanity to its next stage. 

Loomis’ extensive medical background as a surgeon is evident throughout the novel — I was captivated by his ability to tactfully express the suffering of a leukaemia patient. The dialogue, on the other hand, was rather flat, and Loomis’ teenage characters rely heavily on clichés in lieu of nuance. 

(Romen, 24, will enter his fourth-year in English and Classics Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont.)


7 A Pilgrim Year

Pilgrim Year, complete series by Steve Bell. (Novalis, 560 pages, $49.95)

By Katherine Szojka

Just as a mother tells and retells her stories to her children, so does the Church with her liturgical year. 

Steve Bell, a Canadian Christian songwriter and storyteller, uses these two creative skills to explore the Christian liturgical tradition and attempts to draw others into the richness of it.

Pilgrim Year, a series of seven books, is meant as a guide to bring people into the fullness of the Christian liturgical year. Although Bell acknowledges that he is new to the liturgical cycles, he nonetheless wants others to see the value of embracing such a prodigious tradition.

Through short reflections, where Bell begins to draw from the traditions of different Catholic theologians and saints, the feasts of the liturgical year are introduced to readers. Following the reflection is a song or poem composed by Bell because devotional songs have a way of “both setting the soil and setting the dye” when it comes to growing spiritually. 

Being a non-denominational Christian, living with his wife in Winnipeg and on the homeland of Red River Métis territory, Bell shows his culture and character through his books.

(Szojka, 17, graduated from St. Gabriel Online School in Sturgeon County, Alta.)


7 Zombies

Zombies, Unicorns, Cannibals: Strange Tales from the Bible by Sébastien Doane. (Novalis, 142 pages, $19.95)

By Kathleena Henricus

In Zombies, Unicorns, Cannibals: Strange Tales from the Bible, French theology professor Sébastien Doane approaches the Bible in ways you have never seen before.

Identifying the text as personal opinion and interpretation early on, Doane calls on readers to understand the dangers of radicalized and pure literal translation by drawing extreme parallels from the Bible. He doesn’t shy away from discussing instances of pure and unadulterated violence, prior stances against science and blatantly misogynistic and sexist passages. 

Zombies, Unicorns, Cannibals confronts our misconceptions and the things we tend to ignore about the faith in an extremely vocal and frontal way. It makes you uncomfortable. It goes outside the scope of what is preached on Sundays to present an opportunity to really look within yourself, to confront personal beliefs and how you view the faith. 

The book in itself is intentionally jarring and with themes of violence and extreme patriarchal oppression, so fair warning: It is best suited for readers 14 years and older.

As you read this book, let yourself feel angry, scared and confused, and ask for guidance from the Holy Spirit to bring you understanding, to guide you to your own interpretation, as Doane has done.

(Henricus, 15, is a Grade 10 student at Cawthra Park Secondary School in Mississauga, Ont.)

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